CALL TO PRAYER: Thanksgiving's empty chairs
ALABASTER, Ala. (BP) -- I remember my boyhood pastor saying that Christmas always had a tinge of sadness since it was the time his father died. Little did I realize for Donna and me the same kind of memories would materialize around both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It was Thanksgiving 1992 and we sat at the table with my in-laws in Birmingham, Ala. My father-in-law, Robert Bell, always a good-humored man, joked that afternoon about getting older. He'd been forgetting things and laughed that he'd missed his cup while trying to pour coffee a few days before.
A few weeks later the medical tests came back and revealed a brain tumor. He died that summer.
The next Thanksgiving, my mother talked about her medical ailments. She hadn't felt well for some time. Still not feeling well at Christmas, she had to go lie down in the middle of our dinner. My wife and sister-in-law insisted on taking her to the emergency room.
The doctor found a spot in her lungs and suggested she go to a larger hospital as soon as possible. The doctors at St. Vincent's in Birmingham found that cancer had started in her right kidney, had traveled to her lungs and possibly to her brain. She died in only seven weeks.
So, this Thanksgiving, while we enjoy family and friends, many of us think about those who won't be there. But in our prayers, we can be grateful that God loaned us some special people along the way and enriched our lives through them.
As the apostle Paul wrote to his Philippian friends, "Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God" (Philippians 1:3, The Message Bible).